Illustration by Anne Le Guern


Together, above the kitchen sink, we peeled
a hundred russets. You taught me how
to scoop their eyes out. If we didn’t,

they’d watch us eat, you said. The summer
you disappeared I could only fall asleep
in the bathtub. Its porcelain hand cupped
my bluing body. A dozen
candles with their little souls

pinched out. I was angry with want.
I wanted to fold your clothes
while you were still in them. I threw a fistful
of downers into my ogling
mouth. Hoped it’d somehow help me
be my addict brother’s brother. It wasn’t just
that night but several
years. I courted addiction like I wanted
its last name. I was assembling
a search party inside my body.

A bus driver with swinging crucifix earrings
once told me the ladder out of hell

is also on fire. Take these leather gloves
to shield your hands, brother. Know they did not save
the bull. Do you remember walking
together? How we’d swing our arms
like dizzy pendulums, keeping
our own time. One night, you accidentally burned

the back of my hand with a cigarette. I see the second
-degree scar—a pale scarab bubbling back.
You were apologetic then, pulled my hand
toward your face. You blew away the ember

quickly, like a birthday candle. But you never
brushed away the ash.

Steven Espada Dawson

Steven Espada Dawson is from East Los Angeles and lives in Austin, Texas, where he teaches workshops for the Youth Poet Laureate program. He is the son of a Mexican immigrant and a 2021 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. His recent poems appear in The Adroit Journal, Ninth Letter, POETRY, Split Lip, and Waxwing.